Three Foot Passing Law and Human Instincts

Despite my constant work on my mind–especially when cycling–I still get angry when buzzed.

Getting buzzed is when a motorist passes you too close for comfort. It’s like they were going to murder you, but got cold feet at the last minute. The only thing that I hate more than a cold blooded killer is a weakling who fails to follow through. 🙂

Seriously, I am reading a great book called _Body Language_ by Allan and Barbara Pease.

In it, it talks about comfort zones, including those felt by motorists.

Even in countries where the personal bubble is smaller, three feet is pretty close especially when you are being passed by a highly dangerous lump of steel.

In fact, according to this book, and my experience, the personal zone is between eighteen inches and four feet. This is only less intimate than the intimate zone which is a bit closer.

Thus, the motor vehicle is getting close enough to be a really good friend who is talking with you about something you both like. But this isn’t a friend, it’s a stranger. Thus, even if you were not on a bicycle and they weren’t on a bike, you’d wonder why they got so close to you. In some place, they’d even think you were hitting on them or harassing them.

In a vehicle, it’s, of course, more terrifying. Also, in the United States, the distance is on the far end, closer to four feet than to two.

Thus, the three foot passing law allows for cars to get closer to cyclists than humans normally would in social occasions unless the two were close buddies or lovers.

Allowing someone to penetrate you personal space hardly seems to be burdensome.

Also, these are cultural more and animal instincts. In fact, animals that are too crowded have died from stress alone. Thus, to say that this is hard to figure out when you are driving too close to someone goes against the direct experience, culture, and biological programming of a normal human, and it suggests that the person is somehow mentally damaged.

However, many organizations came out against this law for various reasons, but nowhere in the debate did I see that this isn’t really a burden, but rather the law is more permissive than good manners and our human brains dictate.

But there’s more!

According to the Peases (and other researchers), in a care, people feel that their personal bubble is much larger. In fact, a typical motorist feels entitled to twenty five feet of space in front and in back of their cars. If this space is violated in front, they feel angry due to being “cut off”. In the back, they feel “tailgated.”

Surely such a person, who demands over EIGHT TIMES the law in space, should find it child’s play to estimate three feet of passing space for a cyclist.

In fact, I see this all the time where they get really close to me, a human, just like them. Then they veer off to protect an unfeeling inanimate object of a parked car ahead.

That is, when I drive in the parallel parking area, cars feel compelled to come in and buzz me, but they give parked cars much more room. This is very consistent, and to me bizarre behavior.

But I blame the system more than the motorist.

This effect has been confirmed by several motorist who, also saw themselves becoming monsters when motoring. This alienation is one of my major complaints about motoring as it is so universal, and in my mind, toxic.

After learning how humans are set up, I think that the three foot passing law is too little, and I think that the people who voted against it need a bit more education (or perhaps introspection) on how their own minds operate.


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